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Melanie Peeples

18 years after she disappeared, Natalee Holloway's family finally has answers

Beth Holloway speaks to media after the appearance of Joran van der Sloot outside a federal courthouse in Birmingham, Ala. on Oct. 18, 2023. Van der Sloot, the chief suspect in Natalee Holloway's 2005 disappearance in Aruba admitted he killed her and disposed of her remains, and pleaded guilty that he tried to extort money from the teen's mother. (Butch Dill/AP)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It's been a long time coming, but Beth Holloway finally knows what happened to her daughter Natalee in Aruba, back in 2005.

Joran van der Sloot, the now 36-year-old man long believed to be responsible for Natalee Holloway's death pleaded guilty Wednesday in a Birmingham federal courtroom to wire fraud and extortion charges. As part of the plea deal, van der Sloot agreed to tell Beth Holloway how her daughter died and where her body was stashed.

Natalee went missing on a high school graduation trip to the Dutch Caribbean island. Van der Sloot was the last person to be seen with the 18-year-old. Though he was a suspect from the beginning, Aruba authorities never managed to build a case.

In the United States, however, federal prosecutors in Alabama had charged van der Sloot with extortion and wire fraud in 2010, while he was already in prison in Peru for a killing a college student, Stephany Flores, in his hotel room in Lima.

In the indictment, the U.S. government said van der Sloot had attempted to get $250,000 from Beth Holloway in exchange for information and details in Natalee's death.

"Today, the United States held Joran van der Sloot accountable for his scheme to exploit a mother looking for information about her missing daughter," U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona said in a statement.

For Beth Holloway, it wasn't the guilty plea she would have liked to see. "I can tell you with certainty that after 18 years, Natalie's case is solved as far as I'm concerned," she told reporters outside the courthouse. "It's over, it's over. Joran van der Sloot is no longer the suspect in my daughter's murder. He is the killer."

Holloway said specific details about what van der Sloot did the night he killed her daughter would come later. But she spoke in court that he bludgeoned her after she rebuffed his sexual advances and dumped her body in the ocean. Addressing van der Sloot directly she said, "You are a killer and I want you to remember that every time you hear that cell door close."

A judge sentenced van der Sloot to 20 years in a U.S. federal prison. First he will be returned to Peru to complete serving time for the murder of Flores. If he serves more than 20 years there, he will not need to return to the U.S. to finish his sentence for extortion and wire fraud.

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